Why Yahoo is Bigger than Google in Japan

March 11, 2009

I was originally planning to write this as a comment on Mashable’s recent post called When It Comes To Search, Yahoo is Big in Japan but it got too long as I read a few of the comments (some of whom were knowledgeable others did the pop-Japanology thing and generalized the whole country as “a conservative people”)… so I decided to just make a post of it.

One commenter mentioned that Yahoo owns the mobile search market in Japan… this is what prompted me to start to respond.

For the record, both Docomo and AU use Google as their default search engine. Only Softbank (=Yahoo Japan) cell phones use Yahoo as the default.

Yahoo has been around Japan for a long time. The largest auction site in Japan is Yahoo Auctions. (Many many years ago eBay tried to break into the Japanese market and got sent packing.) There is also Yahoo BB which is one of the larger high speed internet providers in Japan. Needless to say the default search engine for Yahoo BB customers is also Yahoo.

Google is slowly coming into its own in Japan but people in Japan tend to use whatever is most convenient… meaning the default engine. People from outside Japan would be quite surprised to hear how technologically illiterate much of Japan is. It’s a matter of using what is right there in front of you.

Firefox also has a very very small market share in Japan. I write some blogs in Japanese as well and almost all of the traffic is Explorer. On the other hand, this blogs traffic is about 75% Firefox. If Firefox were more prominent here, Google would be used that much more for search.

Yahoo has a big hand in the internet infrastructure here in Japan and has been a part of the Japanese internet experience for a long time.


Yahoo will keep a big share of the search market as long as it doesn’t do anything crazy like weaken the parts of it that Japanese people can’t live without – Chiebukuro, Yahoo Auctions, News, Weather, guide to rail lines, Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Gourmet (which lists and categorizes restaurants all over Japan, often providing coupons as well), and over 20 other services it offers.

If Google wants to win here it’s going to have to show people that there is a reason to use Google. Google’s best course of action might be to start cooperating with Yahoo and use its AdsenseĀ on Yahoo related sites to make money here. I think there’s a lot to be made because people here also aren’t as “adsense blind” as people in the U.S. may be.

Just my 2 yen.